A novel mechanism for regulating activity of a transcription factor that controls the unfolded protein response.
Cells respond to an accumulation of unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) by increasing transcription of genes encoding ER-resident proteins. The information is transmitted from the ER lumen to the nucleus by an intracellular signaling pathway, the unfolded protein response (UPR). We have identified a basic-leucine zipper transcription factor, Hac1p, that is required for the UPR and binds to the UPR element in the promoter of UPR-regulated genes. Surprisingly, Hac1p is found in UPR-activated cells only, and its level is controlled by regulated splicing of its mRNA. Splicing replaces the C-terminal tail of Hac1p with a different peptide that renders Hac1p more resistant to an otherwise extremely rapid ubiquitin-dependent degradation. We propose that the complex regulation of Hac1p expression serves to provide multiple levels at which the UPR can be controlled.